By Lincoln Anderson
The new Meat Market still has plenty of room to grow, and the foot traffic isn’t even 50 percent of what it will be in a few years, according to David Rabin, president of the Meatpacking District Initiative.
“I think it’s going to easily double with everything that’s coming,” said Rabin, who owns the Lotus club on W. 14th St., and is one of the new district’s biggest boosters.
“Everything” includes the new Apple store in the building formerly home to Markt Belgian bistro at the corner of Ninth Ave. and 14th St. Apple is taking the majority of the three-story building, Rabin said. He said he’s heard that the store will be open 24 hours, which would mesh perfectly with the area’s new identity as one of the city’s primary nightlife districts.
“The sooner the better,” Rabin said of the Apple store’s opening, slated for the fall.
Even “the people who complain” about the Meat Market’s new character will enjoy the Apple store, he predicted.
“They’ll be thrilled to go there and get an iPod,” Rabin said.
Three projects linked by the old High Line, the High Line Park, the Whitney Museum and Andre Balazs’s The Standard hotel, are also coming to the neighborhood soon the hotel slated for completion later this year, the High Line’s southern section scheduled to open in fall of 2008 and the Whitney in about four years.
Matt de Matt, co-owner of Gaslight bar, said with all the pending big projects, “there are probably like two more waves yet” of excitement and energy destined for the Meat Market.
“It’s like a cycle,” he said. “It crescendod, and now you’ve got The Standard in the background, the Hotel Gansevoort still going strong. The Apple store across the street is generating buzz, and even the Old Homestead seems to be doing well.”
De Matt said existing nightspots and restaurants are busy putting in improvements.
“You’ve got to upgrade, competition is what we’re talking about,” he said.
Some of the bigger-name restaurants, however, he noted, are merely “flagships” and so aren’t that concerned about drawing the crowds.
“You know which ones I’m talking about,” he said, not naming any names.
But Ivy Jeanne Brown, co-president of the Chelsea-Village Partnership, sees signs that all may not be so rosy in the Meat Market for the area’s new entertainment scene. She notes that three businesses on Gansevoort St., Rhône, Meet and Sascha, all went out of business. The failure of the first two, she thinks, is proof that too many liquor licenses have been doled out in the Meat Market. In the case of Sascha restaurant, she said, their mistake was taking too much space.
“They shouldn’t have taken that second floor,” said Brown, who lives in the Triangle Building, in the heart of the Meat Market nightlife zone.
But Rabin dismissed that notion and said these businesses probably just weren’t well run. And he noted that Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit, one of the city’s three-star chefs, will be coming to the former Sascha space, where the owners of PM nightclub from across the street are opening a bistro/lounge.
“It’s a big thing for the neighborhood to have a three-star chef,” Rabin said.
Plus there’s still more developable real estate left, like the vacant buildings straddling the High Line on the south side of 14th St., Rabin added.
As for criticisms that the Meat Market is becoming “the new Times Square,” rather than an elite destination, Rabin said it’s not the case.
An incident over the weekend in which a female rapper shot her friend in the stomach on Washington St. after hanging out at the nearby Pizza Bar isn’t indicative of a downward spiral, he assured.
“A dirtbag no-name rapper went to a party that just happened to be in
our area and shot someone,” he scoffed. “It could’ve happened anywhere. Since when does one shooting make an entire area more dangerous?”
At the same time, he said he’d like to see more police officers on foot patrol during the busiest hours.
Brown simply feels exhausted by the new nightlife hoopla.
“The volume on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night is going up and up and up,” she said. “It’s literally shaking my building. They’re kids they’re kids with money. I mean everybody looks like Paris Hilton. When I was living in London, we were happy hanging out in pubs. I guess we were hippies.”
As for what remains of the meatpacking businesses, they are holding steady, according to John Jobbagy, a board member of the Gansevoort Meat Market co-op building, between Gansevoort, Little W. 12th and Washington Sts. and Tenth Ave.
“Nothing has changed. I would say the status of the Market is the same as last year,” he said. The co-op’s city-owned block carries a deed restriction for agricultural market use and the meatpackers have about seven or eight years left on their lease. However, leases for the handful of other meat businesses in privately owned Meat Market buildings reportedly will be coming due fairly soon.
Jobbagy said the co-op is fine with the Whitney Museum’s plans to build a new building on Gansevoort St. on the southern side of the co-op’s block. The co-op would have to give up a little space for the museum to build the way it wants with a continuous floor plate but it’s not a problem, he said. As a result, unlike when Dia was planning a similar project at the site before it pulled out, there are no longer plans to have meat businesses on the ground floor under the new museum.
Jobbagy said shifting around some uses to accommodate the new project will be slightly arduous.
“To tell you the truth, it interferes with us a little bit, but listen, we’re cooperating,” he said. “The High Line, the museum and the meatpackers we view this as a three-part plan. Three different entities on this block with different functions. It’s something we had talked about, and the Whitney needs the space. This will put it on par with the MoMA and the Met.”
But Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, reported that he’s been hearing the Whitney may be envisioning a project as large as the West Coast apartment building the massive converted former Meat Market refrigeration building just to the south. If, in fact, that’s the case, G.V.S.H.P. has serious concerns about it, he said.
Berman said the society and residents are also keeping up their fight against the Hotel Gansevoort’s towering new billboard structure at least, that is, the bottom of the two signs attached to the pole. The top sign is too high to fall under tougher restrictions, but the lower one must be angled away from residential districts, he said. While the hotel has moved the bottom sign’s angle a bit to make it perpendicular to Hudson St., Berman and the billboard opponents say it must be turned 90 degrees further, basically to face the hotel, because of bordering residential zones at 12th and 13th Sts. A meeting with the Department of Buildings is scheduled for later this week.
Keith McNally, the star restaurateur who owns Pastis on Little W. 12th St., said he’ll keep up his boycott of hotel customers until the hotel pulls down the gigantic ads.
“I’m still very much opposed to the billboard,” McNally said. “It’s an eyesore that’s hideously out of place in our neighborhood and belongs on a Denver freeway. It’s a terrible irony that the owner of the Hotel Gansevoort is oblivious to the aesthetics of the very area his business is benefiting from. How, in the face of so much opposition from decent, local people (myself excluded) can he possibly justify this awful monstrosity?”